By Dhinesh Kallungal
The stage is set for one of the ‘mammoth misuses’ of captive elephants in the country, with the festival organisers of Thrissur Pooram, the largest temple festival in the South India, doing the final preparations to make the festival a roaring success at the cultural capital of Kerala.
Of course, elephants are the chief highlight of the festival, in which as many as 110 elephants decorated with golden headdress (nettippattam), decorative bells and other elephant accoutrements will be paraded before a sea of humanity. But this time also, the authorities are all set to brazenly violate the captive elephant rules, enacted for the welfare of domesticated elephants and for the smooth conduct of the Pooram.
Divisional Forest Officer A R Sasikuamr said that the Pooram cannot be conducted as usual by strictly adhering to the amended Kerala State Captive Elephant Management Rules as most of the rituals associated with the decades-old festival can be performed only with the blatant violation of the rules.
“Last year, the organisers had received special permission from the State Government with regard to the parading of elephants, subject to certain conditions, following a plea in this regard. So, this year also, the organisers will have to explore the possibility of special permission to bypass the captive elephant rules,” he said.
“The amended Kerala State Captive Elephant Management Rules prevent the elephants from being paraded in procession between 11 am and 3.30 pm. However, most of the attractive rituals of the festival, like the ‘Madathil Varavu’ and ‘Pooram Nirakkal of the Paramekkavu Devaswom’, are being held during the peak time of the day,” said V K Venkitachalam, president of the Elephant Lovers Association.
“Besides, as per the rule, elephants should not be paraded on uneven surfaces. But, the 15 elephants of the Thiruvamabadi Devaswom are used to standing at an inclined place near the southern entrance of the temple to take part in the famous ‘Kudamattom’ ceremony, the chief attraction of the festival, which is a violation of the captive elephant rules,” he said.
“Apart from this, there should be sufficient space between the elephants paraded for processions and the public.
“The elephants should also be allowed at least three hours’ rest after every procession, during the day time. But, all these rules will be violated if the organisers go ahead with the Pooram the way they did in the previous years,” he added.